Missouri Gulch / Elkhead Pass

Distance: 9.0 miles (round trip)

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, San Isabel National Forest, near Buena Vista in Central Colorado

Mt. Yale and the peaks lining the northern wall of Missouri Basin

Mt. Yale and the peaks lining the northern wall of Missouri Basin


The strenuous hike to Elkhead Pass, one of the highest passes in Colorado, steeply ascends scenic Missouri Gulch to a 13,220-ft. pass with wonderful panoramic views of the 13,000-ft and 14,000-ft. peaks looming above the expansive meadows of Missouri Basin.
See Trail Detail/Full Description

  • Distance: 9.0 miles (round trip)
  • Elevation: 9,660-ft. at Trailhead
    Maximum elevation: 13,220-ft.
  • Elevation Gain: 3,560-ft.
  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • More Hikes in:
    Buena Vista / Leadville / Central Colorado

Why Hike Missouri Gulch / Elkhead Pass

The Elkhead Pass/Missouri Gulch hike is a great illustration of why I like hiking to a pass. Upon arriving at Elkhead Pass a dramatic panorama unfolds all at once. Mt. Harvard (14,414-ft.), to the southeast, and Mt. Belford (14,197-ft.), to the northeast, anchor a jagged cirque of 13,000 and 14,000-ft peaks that tower above the expansive meadows of beautiful Missouri Basin. Mt. Yale (14,194-ft.) rises to the south beyond the cirque. To the north vistas extend to Mount Hope (13,933-ft.), Quail Mountain and, in the distance, Mt. Elbert (14,433-ft.).

The hike starts with a stiff climb up the timbered southern slopes of the Clear Creek Valley and then enters Missouri Gulch. Soon the trees give way to scenic meadows and for the last 3 miles the hike traverses a gorgeous basin with wonderful views of Mt. Belford (14,197-ft.) and Missouri Mountain (14,076-ft.).

From the pass hikers with the time and energy can climb Mt. Belford. Beyond the pass the trail drops into the Missouri Basin and links with the Pine Creek trail, creating interesting options for backpacking trips.

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile Missouri Gulch / Elkhead Pass Trail

Best Hiking in Central Colorado around Aspen, Marble, Leadville, Buena Vista and Crested Butte

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Trail Resources

Trail Detail/Full Description / Trail Photo Gallery / Trail Map

Basecamp(s) Information:
Buena Vista / Leadville

Region Information:
Central Colorado

Other Hiking Regions in: